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The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature

Ben Tarnoff.
Publisher Penguin  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.35 x 1.05 inches
ISBN 9781594204739
Pages/Publication Date 319/2014
Daedalus Item Code 60993
This item is not available.
1860s San Francisco. The Gold Rush has ended, the Civil War threatens to tear apart the country, but this western city is booming. A global seaport, home to immigrants from five continents, San Francisco has become a complex urban society virtually overnight. Ben Tarnoff introduces us to bards of the moment, who called themselves the Bohemians: a young Mark Twain, fleeing the draft and seeking adventure; literary golden boy Bret Harte; struggling gay poet Charles Warren Stoddard; and beautiful, haunted Ina Coolbrith, poet and protectorate of the group. Tarnoff's elegant, atmospheric history reveals how these four would create a new American literature, unfettered by the heavy European influence that dominated the East.

"Tarnoff breathes fresh life into his narrative with vivid details from the archives ... giving us a rich portrait of a lost world overflowing with new wealth and new talent.... Stylish and fast-paced literary history."SFChronicle

"Tarnoff's book sings with the humor and expansiveness of his subjects' prose, capturing the intoxicating atmosphere of possibility that defined, for a time, America's frontier."The New Yorker

"California was always crawling with scribblers,' Tarnoff remarks, while San Francisco, a promising metropolis far from the horrors of the Civil War, engendered a 'thriving publishing culture' supported by voracious, opinionated readers. Four very different writers who just so happened to share 'contempt for custom' and a taste for satire ended up joining forces as the Bohemians: young, bold Mark Twain; Bret Harte, whose dandyish appearance belied courageous defiance (though he did hide his Jewish heritage); the vulnerable, lovable, and clandestinely gay Charles Warren Stoddard; and independent Ina Coolbrith, who concealed her family's Mormon connection and the horrors of her brief marriage. These creative, hardworking, under-stress literary Bohemians turned two journals, Golden Era and Overland Monthly, into nationally renowned forums for fresh, probing, irreverent writing. Tarnoff energetically portrays this irresistible quartet within a vital historical setting, tracking the controversies they sparked and the struggles they endured, bringing forward an underappreciated facet of American literature. We see Twain in a revealing new light, but most affecting are Tarnoff's insights into Harte's 'downward spiral,' Stoddard's faltering, and persevering Coolbrith's triumph as California's first poet laureate."Booklist

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